Down with the wire: Microgrid transformer

The traditional delivery of electricity by poles and wires has been undergoing a transformation in regional WA and State Government-owned Horizon Power is leading the way.

After trialling eight stand-alone power systems in Esperance and Exmouth over the last couple of years, the utility is now rolling out the systems to more remote customers.

It has started site works in Esperance for 14 SPS units to fringe-off-grid properties. 

Acting General Manager Consumer Energy Andrew Blaver said this will allow the decommissioning and removal of 54 kilometres of ageing, higher risk power lines.

“Traditional electricity lines which run through remote bushland face all kinds of hazards such as falling trees, lightning strikes, high winds and incidents with farm machinery,” he says.

“As a result, these customers can experience frequent and prolonged power outages that may take considerable time to restore.”

He says the units are energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer customers reliable power.

The SPS units will be remotely monitored and fully maintained by Horizon Power. There is no extra cost to the customers, and the same current tariff for electricity provided from the overhead network with apply.

Blaver says Western Australia is leading the way in developing this technology as an entirely new asset class for utilities.

“Quite possibly, this case of actually replacing traditional power lines with SPS units may even be a utility first globally – certainly that’s what some international colleagues are telling us,” he says.

As part of Horizon Power’s goal to transform the electricity sector, it has undertaken pilots which focus on the integration of higher levels of solar energy generation into the electricity network.

A 12-month trial at Mungullah Power Station in Carnarvon tested two 1000kw batteries to see if they could rapidly provide energy if there was a spike in demand and one of the generators at the power station stopped running.

“A key driver of our Energy Storage Trial in Carnarvon was to measure the economic benefits of energy storage, rather than just testing the technology,” Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin said.

“Our early modelling indicates energy storage systems can provide significant savings in fuel and maintenance costs through reducing the use of gas and diesel fuelled generators to provide spinning reserve.” 

Horizon Power has also commissioned the next generation of energy storage systems for the newly built Onslow Power Station as part of the Onslow Renewable Energy Pilot.

The pilot aims to generate 50 per cent of Onslow’s electricity from renewable energy sources, with residents and businesses given with access to low-cost solar and battery storage systems.

“Onslow is set to be the home of Australia’s largest distributed energy resource microgrid,” Unwin says.

“This will include a mix of distributed renewables, modular gas powered generation and battery storage. The pilot will demonstrate safe and reliable operation of a future state, highly distributed energy system.”

She says Horizon’s vision is to create customer choice by trialling technologies to better manage renewables and bring generation costs down.

“By transforming the traditional electricity network into highly distributed intelligent and isolated power systems, known as microgrids, we can deliver more affordable and sustainable electricity to our customers,” she says.

“These new technologies are benefiting our communities and driving innovation in global energy systems to achieve a more renewable future.” 

Horizon Power is a proud CCIWA Member. To find out more about membership packages, visit here

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